HOLISTIC EDUCATION : A NEW PARADIGM FOR TEACHING

                                             Knowledge as Understanding in Context of Theoretical Framework,

                                                     Worldview or 'Paradigm'

 

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”  Buckminster Fuller

theme: Major theories are models or 'paradigms'... A paradigm is a worldview which is based on a belief, theory or model. A paradigm is like a map which provides a general outline and direction for scientific activity.

 "There is a new 'paradigm' - a change in consciousness from seeing the world in a mechanical way (Newtonian paradigm of regularity, order, precision, and predicatability). There is a new dialectic between 'phenomenon and perception' which puts more emphasis on human response and subjectivity. In this new paradigm, our understanding of the world or 'reality' is mediated by language, beliefs, values, and ways of being. Our perception and images of the world affect our experience of the world." (David Purpel, 1989. The Moral and Spiritual Crisis in Education: A Curriculum for Justice and Compassion in Education. Masschusetts, Bergin and Garvey Publishers, Inc. 133)

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what is a paradigm?    examples of paradigms...

American physicist turned historian Thomas Kuhn...

                                          Kuhn's argument for 'scientific revolutions'...   anomalous data...     'paradigm crisis' ...    'paradigm debate'...   'paradigm shift'...    

holistic science as science of connectedness or 'wholeness'...

implications for education...  

The human species is an exploratory species and 'science' is an exploratory activity of natural common sense inquiry to discover the true knowledge of reality or 'truth'. Pursuit of truth or curiosity' is rooted in the human instinct for self-preservation. The truth-finding activity brings to awareness aspects of reality which were unknown but which were there all the time before they were discovered... a function of the ability to conceptualise. The human organism is the only animal able to formulate concepts and conceptual frameworks which colour its perceptions of the environment. The conceptual thinking process is influenced by conditioning experiences of upbringing, education, social and cultural history which all help to create the conceptual  framework, worldview or 'paradigm'. The paradigm is based on assumptions which are taken for granted and function as the guideposts in life and help in the interpretation of events and circumstances in the environment. Everything is compared to how we think the world should be and we react accordingly. Science is a holistic process involving emotion and cognition operating synergistically in the observation of the material world... involves objective experimental or 'scientific' data (physics) and also awareness or 'consciousness' as the understanding of the observer... perceptions (metaphysics) or 'knowledge'. Knowledge is a function of facts and perceptions. This relationship is examined carefully in the conceptual... theoretical... framework or 'paradigm' of the science of 'connectedness' or 'wholeness' i.e. ‘holistic science'. Holistic science involves knowledge as understanding of content in context... knowledge of the observer's consciousness, subjective knowlege or 'self-knowledge' as well as knowledge as objective observation and experience. 

  What is a paradigm? Is the drawing of a duck or a rabbit? How do you perceive the image? Perceptions are based on the understanding of reality in terms of a particular way of looking at the world as if through coloured spectacles. Change the colour of the spectacles that is change the paradigm and you change the perception.  A paradigm is a shared perspective of reality, a theoretical structure or framework, working model, theory, map or worldview. Paradigms determine perceptions and possibilities for discovery depend on the prevailing paradigm which provides the a general outline and direction for scientific activity... provides the context within which the scientist designs experiments, analyses and evaluates observations and experimental data leading to the formulation of a theory.The paradigm determines the underlying assumptions upon which theories or 'hypotheses' are formulated and then tested with the possibility of giving rise to new paradigms. .

Some examples of scientific paradigms in the history of scientific thought are the worldviews which are based on scientific theories: the mind-body dualism (Descartes), planetary model of the atom Bohr, elementary particle nature of matter (Newton), the flowing current model of electricity, the double helix model of DNA (Watson and Crick), the theory of relativity (Einstein), discontinuous structure of nature (quantum mechanics), classical science and 'reductionism', the theory of evolution (Darwin). 

In l858 the theory of evolution of Darwin (independently of Wallace) described in the book The Origin of Species published in l859 the thesis supported by the available evidence, continues to be supported by new evidence, and remains valid for well over a century.The current version of Darwin's theory, called neo-Darwinism, derives from a synthesis of the evolutionary theory with the more recent knowledge of genetics and genetic theory (formulated in the l920s,'30s and '40s) According to neo-Darwinism, organisms best adapted to a given environment survive to reproduce offspring and in this way pass on the favorable characteristics. Changes in the environment can render those same characteristics unsuitable for the organism's survival and reproduction. Spontaneous changes in the genetic material of the organism, called mutations, take place irrespective of the conditions in the organism's environment. If the organism is well adapted to an environment and the environment does not change, the mutations are not passed on to following generations. If the environment changes and a spontaneous mutation contributes to the adaptability of the organism in the new environment, then that mutation increases the chances of the organism's survival. In a process of 'natural selection', the mutation of 'survival value' is 'selected'. 'Selection' of the mutation is a result of its ability to increase the chances of the organism's capacity for survival and reproduction, and its passage to the offspring and succeeding generations.

The word 'paradigm' was coined and popularized by the American physicist turned historian Thomas Kuhn (1922-1995). Kuhn conceived of his book entitled The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (published in l962) while he was a graduate student in theoretical physics at Harvard University.  Kuhn's  theory... argument... of the structure of scientific revolutions was a landmark in the intellectual history of the twentieth century. Before the book was published the prevailing view of the progress of science was based on the philosophical notion that change in the history of science is due to a strictly rational or ‘objective’ process involving the rational accumulation of knowledge. Kuhn argued that science is human scientific activity and so not only an objective process but is progressive in the sense that definite intellectual periods are separated by intellectual revolutions or ‘scientific revolutions'  (history of science). Kuhn explored the periods of 'paradigm crises' when new theories arise to explain observations which cannot be explained by the prevailing theory and argued that scientific revolutions can be explained in terms of paradigm debates and paradigm shifts leading to the replacement of one paradigm by another more appropriate one... hence 'progressive science'. Kuhn presented his theory of scientific progress in terms of science as scientific activity and a process of discovery. He made a historical analysis of working scientists and as a scientist hiomself he focused on the question 'what is science’ asking "what do scientists do?" instead of "what 'should' scientists do?" which might be the question of the philosopher. He showed that in fact scientists design experiments, make observations and formulate theories within the context of the inherent assumptions of a given theoretical or conceptual framework, major theory, working model or 'paradigm'. The paradigm determines the scientist's perceptions of reality... their worldview and their beliefs.

 

Data which cannot be explained by the theoretical framework... structure...  or paradigm within which the experiment has been designed do not fit the the theory paradigm are considered to be 'anomalous'. As an example, the dual nature of light - behaviour of photons as particles and waves – could not be explained by the theory of classical Newtonian mechanics. Anomalous data engender a ‘paradigm crisis’ which leads to controversy or 'paradigm debate'. In the course of a paradigm debate, scientists working within the framework of different paradigms are unable to communicate clearly and they talk 'through each other'. Some will attempt to fit the anomalous data into the prevailing paradigm. Others will propose new theories to explain the anomalous data. If a new theory is able to explain the anomalous data then hypotheses are formulated and tested with experiments designed within the theoretical framework of the new paradigm and the new point of  view... to substantiate the prevailing paradigm or else give rise to a new one. The data are interpreted in terms of its support for or detraction from the new theory and the outcome leads either to the continued validity of the prevailing paradigm or to the substantiated validity of the new one. If the new theory can explain the anomalous data then the prevailing paradigm is replaced by a new one and there is a 'paradigm shift'. A paradigm shift involves a change in the perception of reality as if through different coloured spectacles. The 'spectacles' of the new paradigm replace those of the old paradigm. The process continues and in this way science progresses, thus 'progressive science'. Progressive science is based on the recognition of the role of the scientist as an important factor in the modification of a prevailing paradigm. Each new generation of working scientists accepts the structural framework of the prevailing paradigm as the correct understanding of the nature of existence.

 

Kuhn's analysis of scientific paradigms explains the nature of science in terms of progressive scientific activity as a holistic process which involves not only objective experimental data... the observation of the material world ... collection of facts or 'scientific data' and experimental data... but also the mental function of awareness or consciousness of subjective perceptions of the experimenter which are based on the individual’s understanding of reality or 'knowledge'. True knowledge of reality or 'truth' a function of both physics and metaphysics. Physics deals with facts of the physical material world and metaphysics deals with ideas or  'concepts'. The connections and relationships between physics and metaphysics... perception of the whole or 'holistic perception' is the basis for the science of interconnectedness or 'wholeness'... 'holistic science'. Holistic science involves scientific analysis which depends on the scientist's ability to perceive connections between the wholes and the parts which make them up... The thought process of the working scientist is analysed in terms of their perceptions of reality, determined by the state of awareness or 'consciousness' as knowledge of one’s own consciousness or 'self-knowledge' (intimate knowledge') as well as knowledge of objective experience and observation ('symbolic knowledge').


  Progressive science is based on the recognition of the role of the scientist as an important factor in the modification of a prevailing paradigm.

  Holistic science as science of interconnectedness or wholeness... The analysis of science includes the analysis of the scientist. Holistic science deals not only with the scientist's observations but also the scientist's observations of their own consciousness. Holistic science is a science which observes itself as in a mirror or 'looking-glass'. Holistic science is a 'looking-glass science'. Scientific theorists are 'looking-glass scientists'... who observe the observer making the observations. The universe is a 'looking-glass' universe...  a reflection of the observer's consciousness... a reflection of a paradigm. Science as the human process pf truth-finding involves the functions of emotion and cognition operating synergistically.
The goals of education are being shaped by the new holistic science which forms the basis for a holistic education. The new methodology of holistic science acknowledges the participation ...subjective experiences of the observer in the process of observation... experimental situations... by the same token, the new educational methodology recognizes and validates the participation of the learner in the learning process ...


Critical to educational policy is the following question: "which worldview is shaping the goals of education?" Educational goals are set within the framework of a prevailing worldview or paradigm. Information is presented and reflected upon within the context of an accepted worldview. In the past, the worldview of empirical science has been shaping the goals of education., This worldview is now being challenged...  goals of education are being shaped by the worldview of holistic science.

Implications for education: 

A Teaching Paradigm For Holistic Education as Humane Education.

Progress in science involves changes in paradigms... progress in education also involves changes in paradigms. Paradigms in education are defined by educational theory... theoretical framework within which methodologies of educational practice are designed. The history of educational practice is based on paradigm crises, paradigm debates and paradigm shifts. The replacement of one theory by another brings about new paradigms and the result is progress in education. The evolution of education… educational progress… can also be described in terms of revolutions.

In the traditional paradigm of education, school education is conceived as an effective way for adapting children to the rise of industrialism and to teach them the knowledge and the discipline which they would need to adapt to the demands of an industrial society. Traditional education emphasizes the mechanics of learning factual knowledge and focuses on the methods of teaching. Traditional methods of teaching were justified by the behavioural sciences and based on the premise that learning involves the conscious part of the brain only. The traditional paradigm of education is based on the theory of learning as conditioning... learning process is a matter of conditioning and is therefore passive... learner motivation for external rewards extrinsic motivation, and the role of the teacher is to decide what and how the students should learn... teacher as instructor.  to define the outcomes of learning. In the context of learning outcomes and lesson plans, the evaluation of learning is in terms of conditioned responses. Knowledge and understanding are assessed and measured in numerical terms... success is met with the rewards of recognition and high grades; failure is met with lack of recognition and the punishment of low and failing grades. In the context of this standardized grading system, children learn to depend for their motivation on factors which are extrinsic to themselves... they become extrinsically motivated.

Declining motivation is thought to be a cause for declining standards and the traditional paradigm of education... teaching and learning... is being seriously questioned today... There is a 'paradigm crisis' engendering 'paradigm debate' and 'paradigm shift' ... ‘fundamental shift’.    

Institutionalized education with its emphasis on conditioning and behavioral outcomes is no longer relevant in the times of mass comunications and the 'global village.' As well as the sequential printed word, information is derived from multisensory sources of varying forms and intensities. The complexity of information requires the brain to process simultaneously multitudinous stimuli - sights, sounds, images, ideas and others. For the purpose of survival, the brain must be able to derive meaning from a complex environment. The educational paradigm of industrialism and behaviorism has become too limited. The educational experience for growing children is no longer a matter of simple preparation for a future working life. The educational experience must enable them to adapt to a changing environment and changing circumstances. It must prpeare them for personal fulfillment and a life of change. It must engage their full capacity for learning, and for learning to learn. For a future of change and a global perspective in the global village, their subjective life must become of paramount concern in education. It is no longer possible to ignore their inner experience. We need to look at the entire system and consider the individual as an autonomous and reflective being, interactive member of a changing society.

The traditional paradigm is being replaced by the new paradigm described as integrative, configurative or 'holistic'...  the new methodology...  based on theories of experiential learning, intrinsic motivation and teaching as the facilitation of learning. On the basis of recent findings in brain research learning is most effective when it involves the brain's natural function of creating meaning from experience...  Effective learning is active and involves motivation for the intrinsic rewards of knowledge and understanding. The teacher's function is to empower the learner and facilitate natural learning... teaching the whole child... as fostering growth through learning - intellectual, emotional, psychological, aesthetic and spiritual development of personality and character... development of moral consciousness or 'conscience'  i.e. 'moral development'. Conscience or 'soul' is the source of the guiding values for living... the human social values or 'human values'.


The formulation of educational aims does not necessitate the separate consideration of outcome of learning or 'content' and process of learning or 'process'. C
ontent and process are interrelated. 'Content' as information is considered in terms of its significance. The content of one field is regarded in terms of its relationship to other fields. 'Process' as method is considered in terms of making associations and extending relationships. In a theoretical study of the learning process, 'content' and 'process' are considered simultaneously...  Educational aims are formulated in terms of the interrelationship between the objective content and a subjective process. The aim of education for students is defined in terms of their need to apply what they learn to an understanding of themselves and their world.

The person with complete inner freedom is able to make interpretations of the environment which are not coloured by preconceived concepts and assumptions and this makes the process of adaptation much less problematical.

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References:

 

reference:  Sam Crowell A New Way of Thinking: The Challenge for the Future Educational Leadership vol. 47 no.1 (September 1989) 60-63

J. P Briggs and D.Peat. Looking Glass Universe: The Emerging Science of Wholeness  

Quotations:

"Kuhn uses the term 'paradigm' in one sense to denote 'the entire constellation, values, techniques and so on shared by the members of a given community.' In this sense - as a set of shared constructs - a paradigm in science is on the same order as other community-shared world views e.g. Buddhism.("We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts.") The means by which paradigms are perpetuated and transmitted are akin to the process of socialization into any other group-specific reality. Professional training is a secondary specialization whereby the fledgling scientist acquires a role-specific paradigm." (Roger Walsh, M.D. PhD Frances Vaughan Ph.D. Beyond Ego: Transpersonal Dimensions of Psychology Los Angeles: J.P. Tarcher, Inc. 1980. p.30)


"Kuhn teaches us that science is a looking glass activity in a looking-glass universe. The new scientific theorists, called looking-glass scientists of looking-glass science, tell us that the universe is a mirror or 'looking-glass' ...a reflection of the observer's consciousness... of a 'paradigm'.
" (J. P Briggs and D.Peat. Looking Glass Universe: The Emerging Science of Wholeness)                                           

" There is a new paradigm or worldview that reflects a more integrative point of view... the collective, cooperative, and organizational aspects of nature..." (Paul Davies. The Cosmic Blueprint: New Discoveries in Nature's Creative Ability to Order the Universe" New York: Simon & Schuster 1988)  

 "Examining the record of past research from the vantage of contemporary historiography, the historian of science may be tempted to exclaim that when paradigms change, the world itself changes with them. Led by a new paradigm, scientists adopt new instruments and look in new places. Even more important, during revolutions scientists see new and different things when looking with familiar instruments in places they have looked before. It is rather as if the professional community has been suddenly transported to another planet where familiar objects are seen in a different light and are joined by unfamiliar ones as well. Of course, nothing of quite that sort does occur: there is no geographical transplantation; outside the laboratory everyday affairs usually continue as before. Nevertheless, paradigm changes do cause scientists to see the world of their research engagement differently. In so far as their only recourse to that world is through what they see and do, we may want to say that after a revolution scientists are responding to a different world." (Thomas Kuhn. 1962. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago: Chicago University Press.)


"New perspectives are emerging from scientific philosophy which suggest the new worldview required for a new way of thinking... for half a century we have been in the midst of a conceptual revolution that is once again changing the scientist's conception of space, matter, force, and the structure of the universe." (Kuhn T. The Copernican Revolution Cambridge, Mass.:Harvard University Press 1957)  
 

" There is a new paradigm or worldview that reflects a more integrative point of view... the collective, cooperative, and organizational aspects of nature..." (Paul Davies. The Cosmic Blueprint: New Discoveries in Nature's Creative Ability to Order the Universe New York: Simon & Schuster 1988)  

Notes:


The map is not the territory. ...A person or society may think that what they are aware of (actually what their culturally acquired schemata allows them to be aware of ) is an accurate representation of the world, and the culturally derived schemata of understanding may distort fundamental relationships - like the belief that humans can survive and progress through even greater reliance on technological solutions.
 

There is a general demand for the democritization of education. Each individual has the right to an education which provides the opportunity for self-empowerment - to develop the powers of intrinsic motivation required for them to be able to control their own future.


A new paradigm is emerging... with emphasis on the process of learning rather than on teaching... The attention of educators is being shifted ...drawn away from the paradigm of the behavioral sciences and towards the biological basis of the human potential for learning and thinking ...new paradigm of the systems approach... the new holistic paradig
m

 

 The new emerging paradigm is based on a new concept of effective teaching. In the new paradigm of teaching, the function of the effective teacher can no longer be described in terms of authoritarianism and control... the teacher's function is described in terms of authority and facilitation of the learning process.

The organic learning theories are in agreement with recent brain research and an organic worldview which perceives the world as an interconnected developing organism. The empowered learner is perceived as an active participant in self-directed learning, organizing experiences and creating new patterns and meanings according to psychological processes which relate to the individual's motivation, needs and personal meaning.

The new paradigm of education has one paramount concern - the learner's inner life. From the perspective of this new framework, the hierarchical and mechanical school environment of traditional education is viewed differently.
Rather than viewing the individual as an autonomous and reflective being, we should focus on the person as an interactive member of a larger ecology; look at the entire system.

The word 'learning' has had the meaning which was used in the very traditional teaching methodology in which students had to 'learn' by rote ... Seriously questioned today, this method has given way to other methods which still require the student to 'learn' static pieces of information in isolation - pieces which can be incorporated into more complicated contexts. Traditional teaching methods were formulated within the framework of the belief that learning involves only the conscious part of the mind and can therefore be facilitated by the structure of the method. Using traditional teaching methods, teachers depend on textbooks to decide what students will learn and how they will learn it.


Many methods of teaching are based on combinations of theories of learning...


According to Skinner's work described in his book Verbal Behaviour (1957), learning is a matter of learning a behaviour. According to his psychological theory of behaviourism, 'learning' language is a result of conditioned behaviour. The stimulus - response - reinforcement model of learning...

Learning is a natural process based on the physiological functions of the brain. Learning involves the transmission of signals along nerve cells or 'neurons' and across their junctional connections or 'synapses'. Learning is a function of modification of the synapse. "Learning occurs as a result of changing the effectiveness of synapses so that their influence on other neurons also changes." (Geoffrey Hinton, "How Neural Networks Learn from Experience," Scientific American, 267:3, September 1992, 145)
 

...learning involves both focused attention and peripheral perception of stimuli which are not in the field of focused attention...discuss the importance of peripheral stimuli in the activation of internal processing in learning....intrinsic motivation...

Maslow's 'hierarchy of needs' is related to the range of drives of individual meanings known as 'deep meanings. (See Maslow, A.H. 1968 "Toward a Psychology of Being." New York: D. Van Nostrand) Deep meanings are at the core of intrinsic motivation. The providey the individual with a sense of direction and with the energy needed to carry out a particular task.

... children are naturally curious. Their natural curiosity is the source of their self-motivation for learning, the source of the motivation which comes from within themselves - their 'intrinsic motivation'. Intrinsically motivated by their curiosity, they
depend for their continued motivation on adult approval.

With a shift in paradigm to a systems approach, it becomes possible to view the learning process in all its complexity. ...shift in the conceptualization of the teaching and learning paradigm ...
Enhanced learning depends on the reconceptualization of teaching ... one based on the knowledge of brain functioning.The theoretical wholistic framework is based on the knowledge of brain functioning.

The greatest challenge facing education is the need to "discover with our students a new way of thinking." This requires a new worldview. New perspectives are emerging from scientific philosophy which suggest the new worldview required for a new way of thinking.

(Kuhn T. The Copernican Revolution Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press 1957)

explains that "for half a century we have been in the midst of a...conceptual revolution that is once again changing the scientist's conception of space, matter, force, and the structure of the universe. Peter Drucker ("The Age of Discontinuity" New York: Harper and Row 1969)

"The fact that we are shifting from a Cartesian view of the universe, in which the accent has been on parts and elements, to a configuration view, with emphasis on wholes and patterns, challenges every single dividing line between areas of study and knowledge." Paul Davies (The Cosmic Blueprint: New
Discoveries in Nature's Creative Ability to Order the Universe" New York: Simon & Schuster 1988)

examines a new paradigm or worldview that reflects a more integrative point of view: "the collective, cooperative, and organizational aspects of nature..."

 "how can schools become more integrated and cohesive?" Schools must not isolate children from life experience. In designing a curriculum for transdisciplinary studies, look for relationships and patterns in different subjects and organize the subject matter according to unifying themes. Seeing relationships and patterns results in the meaningful integration of the different subject areas.                                            

 "The discoveries of Rudolf Steiner concerning the interrelationships of body, soul and spirit represent a new educational paradigm which ... can provide a secure theoretical and practical foundation for a holistic education that directs itself to educate the whole person for the whole of life." ("Gerald Karnow "Educating the Whole Person for the Whole of Life" Holistic Education Review, Spring, 1992)

“Different worldviews can lead to either expanded or limited domains. Domains within holistic education emphasize multidimensionality, wholeness, multiple perspectives, love as caring…” (John Miller Holistic Curriculum

   'paradigm' ...'the entire constellation , values, techniques, and so on shared by the members of a given community.' In this sense - as a set of shared constructs - a paradigm in science is on the same order as other community-shared worldviews - e.g. Buddhism. The means by which paradigms are perpetuated and transmitted are akin to the process of socialization into any other group-specific reality. Professional training is a secondary socialisation whereby the fledgling scientist acquires a role-specific paradigm." (Kuhn p 30)

 The individuals of a community share a given set of constructs, values, and techniques which together are referred to as a 'paradigm' (Kuhn The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Univ of Chicago Press, l970)

Education as quest for truth      

The goals of education are being shaped by the new wholistic science which forms the basis for a wholistic education. The new methodology of wholistic science acknowledges the participation ...subjective experiences of the observer in the process of observation... experimental situations... by the same token, the new educational methodology recognizes and validates the participation of the learner in the learning process ...

The organic learning theories are in agreement with recent brain research and an organic worldview which perceives the world as an interconnected developing organism. The empowered learner is perceived as an active participant in self-directed learning, organizing experiences and creating new patterns and meanings according to psychological processes which relate to the individual's motivation, needs and personal meaning.


  In the event of errrors and an unknown complexity of intervening factors in an experimental situation, strict adherence to falsification testing (promoted by philosopher Karl Popper author of The Logic of Scientific Discovery 1934) is not enough to accommodate or account for the necessary modification and adjustments to prevailing theories and assumptions. It becomes nnecessary to include the role of the scientist.